The Domestic Husband (Guest Post)

a guest post by Ezra, somewhat of a follow-on to my post about our daily routine

What should a husband’s responsibilities be in the home? One popular answer is that men and women should have (on average) equally difficult and equally lucrative jobs, and thus their responsibilities in the home should be equally divided. An opposite answer, which also comes from the world, involves the husband exercising selfish authority over his family, viewing his wife as the servant, and never considering assisting her in her domestic duties. Both of these are far from biblical. The second one involves the stronger selfishly abusing his power over the weaker in pursuit of worldly gain; the first merely insists on equality between them in the same selfish pursuit.

But assuming that a couple recognizes this, and wants to honor Jesus with how they manage domestic responsibilities, sorting out who does what in the home may still be difficult. In divine wisdom, God does not typically give us exact regulations for our particular life situation; rather, he gives us the precepts of holy living and the wisdom to work them out in a particular culture and family. This process of working out how to follow God’s law in a particular context glorifies God because it deepens our understanding of his law and thus him. This process should sanctify us, increase our worship, and bless those around us if we approach it rightly. Following are some biblical truths which have helped me sort out my domestic place as a husband:

1. The Bible gives no direct commands on this issue. It does not say, “Husbands, assume one third of the domestic duties in your home,” or anything close to this. It does not endorse a Leave it to Beaver style of family, or an ancient agrarian style, or any other particular brand. However, it does speak loudly about honoring the created differences between husband and wife in the practice of family.

2. Wives are to be workers at home (Titus 2:5). As with many verses, this one wisely gives a general principle instead of a specific application. Rather than try to define how much a woman can be away from her family, it simply gives her what is to be her primary role in the family economy: running the home. From this I understand that I don’t need to feel guilty when I come home and find that my wife has had a tough day with the kids. Sometimes I have the harder part, and sometimes she does.

3. Men are to lay down their lives for their wives like Jesus did (Ephesians 5). So what do I do when I come home and find that she had a hard day? The exact application varies, but generally, my heart toward her burden should be the same as Jesus’ heart toward mine. Can I take the kids for a while? Can I change a diaper? Can I wash the dishes? What does she hate doing most? What helps her to re-charge? Do I know her well enough to know how to help her rest? We don’t wash feet anymore in our culture. We “wash dishes and clean toilets” (John Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus). And we as Christian husbands should be quicker to do this than anyone else, considering the One we are supposed to be acting out.

Note also that what helps your wife most will vary with their personality and situation. Some will be best helped by you affirming how valiantly they have fought the good fight that day. Others would just be relieved if you take the kids outside while they are cooking dinner. Knowing your wife is key.

4.This kind of knowing happens about 1/4 by observation and 3/4 by communication. This means that in order to effectively practice loving your wife, you need to regularly ask her what would best help her. Everyone’s situation is different. I view dish washing as a Task. However, my wife is quicker at it than I am, and having been with the kids all day, would sometimes rather that I give them the bath or get them ready for bed while she cleans up from dinner.

5. Screen time can be unprofitable (1 Corinthians 6:12). It has become a “thing” in our culture for the man to have a designated time of day, typically right after work or right after dinner in which he focuses on TV, gaming, or the internet. While this is not explicitly sinful, it is usually not profitable either. Screen time is an escape, but it is not real rest, and it does not prepare a husband mentally or spiritually to serve his family. We need to deal honestly with screens and other escapes which may be robbing time from the families God gave us, and thus from God himself.

6. However, it is essential for both the husband and the wife to have time for prayer and the Word, and it may also be necessary for one or both to have additional time for themselves.These times are things that a husband and wife should plan with each other, being anxious to ensure that their spouse has the time and space for practicing spiritual disciplines and maintaining sanity. Until recently, for me this meant that I would disappear shortly after getting home from work, and then emerge for dinner. Now, I try to spend that time in the morning before breakfast. For Kyleigh, this has meant both time in the morning before she wakes up the girls, and also time during their afternoon naps. In addition, sometimes Kyleigh has needed to have a morning or afternoon to herself once or twice a month. These things will look different for each couple, and may change often. Again, loving communication is essential.

Now, a word of encouragement. I am really just learning all of this. I have been very convicted several times in the past two years about how selfish I have been in the economy of my family. I did not support my wife, especially in her postpartum depression, with anything like a consistent, Christ-like practice of love. I was often very selfish in my attitude toward her when her struggle sapped the energy from her which she would have used to be my wife. Yet, God used those times to teach me about serving my wife and about putting her needs first, including in helping with domestic work.

Then, at one point, while we were visiting one of Kyleigh’s relatives, that relative remarked very seriously on how good it was to see a husband involved with his family and not leaving the responsibility of the children all on his wife. I remarked that this was Christ’s work in me. A little sliver of the gospel.

But understand, it was a short visit and I hadn’t done anything big. I hadn’t broken up a big fight or heroically tackled a leaking diaper. I think the biggest thing I did was help my older daughter, a toddler, eat a small bowl of ice cream. But I was present, engaged, and mildly helpful, and this seemed remarkable to our host.

Brothers, the “traditional” model of family is often used as a cover-up by unbelieving husbands who would rather not serve their families much beyond delivering a pay check. Likewise, the secular egalitarian model is often lived out by men who, at best, grudgingly take up their 50.0000% of the domestic responsibilities (not a cent more!), and do not show their wives honor. And beyond this, our society is filled with families where the division of domestic responsibilities is a matter of selfishness rather than servanthood. Serve your wife from your heart, and the world will often take notice, to God’s glory.

Post Script: the principle here is that a husband should be involved in his family as both a leader and a servant. However, the risk is that in laying out this principle I may incur a false sense of guilt in some men. Consider: a man who works long, exhausting hours to put bread on the table for his family need not feel guilty when he has little energy or opportunity to serve them domestically. A man in graduate school (like me) need not feel guilty when his wife picks up chores that were his in order to give him more study time. Conversely, however, a man whose wife is sick or depressed, or for some other reason is particularly burdened or afflicted, may find that he needs to lay his life down for her in extra measure by taking all of the domestic responsibilities possible onto his plate.

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2018: August

We kicked off August with a packing break – vacation with my extended family in Leavenworth! We went occasionally growing up and it was so fun to take the girls.
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I love the sea and lakes and I love the forest but I think what I love most is mountains.

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A gentle hike
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And a crazier one. Candace and I didn’t make it to the top because we were going up by ourselves and didn’t know there was an alternate route or that the bush would support our weight…
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Nutcracker museum! So many neat nutcrackers and some history.

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When we got home it was packing time! S had been asking to dance in the truck.

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Something wonderful coming to a close, something exciting beginning.
I went for a sunset drive to run a few last minute errands and the “light on the water” like “silver glass” while “night is now falling, so ends this day, the road is now calling, and I must away,” brought on a lot of emotion that I am learning to process rather than push away, even as I dread making new friends all over again.
Packing, loading, and driving down all went smoothly and faster than anticipated. Thank you to all who prayed for us, packed with us, cleaned with us, ate with/fed us in these last few weeks. We are surrounded by love!
Even the random dog cooling off in our garage yesterday.
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Moving day breakfast on the garage steps, and then we took off. Ezra drove the truck and I had the girls in the car, and the 5 hour drive (with only one stop!) went more smoothly than expected. I had an audiobook to keep me awake while the girls napped, and while they were awake we sang Eidelweiss and Frosty the Snowman on repeat and listened to Leonard Bernstein narrating Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals.

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Salad topped with leftovers is one of my favorite lunches right now.

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First attempt at a pain d’epi. Would love to try this wreath sometime.

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Getting settled in our basement apartment!
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This is the first time I’ve actually put thought into bathroom decor… it started with wanting to use old tea canisters for hair stuff, and then I thought I needed something else “tea” and made the tea bag art.

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She is not a fan of swinging but loves to push them.

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Yummy yummy date night as a pre-birthday celebration. Flavors: zucchini bread – brownie – carrot cake – olive oil. The olive oil was surprisingly our favorite!

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memorization// Here is Love // Ephesians 3:14-21
favorite recipes// sauerkraut with some more tips // vegan rice // sourdough hamburger buns // lactofermented Moroccan spiced carrots // creamy salsa chicken skillet // sourdough popovers // autumn glow milkshake // chocolate thin mint French toast // Hawaiian (vegan) sloppy Joe’s // grain free apple flax muffins //

best of online//  7 ways to increase intimacy in your marriage // tips for mothers of large families // raising a teen without a smartphone // change the way you sit // new toilet bowl cleaner recipes // another knit-like crochet stitch // Paul Washer series on family // can never get enough of Schumann’s Romances // waiting gains // soul care vs self care // Martin Lloyd-Jones on How to Become a Christian (audio) // things that are above (on perspective) // Tchaikovsky Serenade // The CBT Therapist in Us All // donate to help Yemen //

Added some favorite kids’ music to our page over here.

WORLD interview with Matthew Kaemingk:
“Kuyper: “Leave it to Christian believers, if need be to Christian Martyrs, to have the honor of demonstrating the intrinsic emptiness of non-Christian spiritual life.”
“Their Muslim neighbors are not an issue to be resolved, but people to be loved. This is a unique historical moment in which the church has the opportunity to be the church, the hands and feed ot Jesus, to share the hospitality we’ve received [NOT “earned” hospitality!].”

Reagan “freedom is the recogniction that no single governmental authority has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious.”

reading of late// Uncle Tom’s Cabin // Cranford // Women and God (Nielson) // Conscience (Naselli and Crowley) // Little Men (Alcott) // These Strange Ashes (Elliot) // Caring for One Another (Welch) // skimmed Feelings and Faith (Borgman) //

thinking about// The starting place of Christians – for womanhood, justice, etc. MUST be God and His Word, not shaping God in our image. His design in men and women’s roles and differences is very good – conflict, abuse, etc. are from sin.

what brings joy// Leavenworth with the girls: bringing them into my treasured memories // friends becoming engaged // spaetzle // dough // sacrificial community helping us pack and clean //

The Munchkins// S colors her Sunday school pictures entirely purple. Ellie turned 2 – she’s tiny but talks very well, loves to joke around and get into mischief, and is still snuggly.
Favorite foods: peanut butter, pasta, chocolate, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumber, ca-yke (cake).
Favorite things: balls, cars, stuffed animals, cats and dogs, babies, Papa, Uncles, and Grandpa
Favorite books: Zin Zin Zin A Violin, God’s Very Good Idea
Favorite activities: eating (she melts in a puddle if we tell her no or eat in front of her when she doesn’t have food), climbing, playground, dancing, singing

What Can I Do?

Without news emails delivered to my inbox daily, I feel disconnected from the world. I like my little bubble of ignorance. But that leads to an unhealthy withdrawal from the world around me, leading to life centering around me and my small needs.
But when I do take the time to read news emails or scroll through Facebook, I am quickly overwhelmed by all that is wrong in the world. I feel helpless regarding the lack of justice against groups like ISIS. I feel angry about the immigration situation and children separated from their parents – through immigration, yes, but even more, through abortion. I feel sorrow over the endless wars in Syria and Yemen. That’s only a fraction of the list, the most common issues I see. Other troubles are less reported: Boko Haram, Andrew Brunson, Venuzuela…
Recently I have struggled with that feeling of helplessness. I have wondered how to balance understanding the world around me with not being so overburdened I burn out or become numb to the sheer volume of tragedy. I don’t feel like I have a clear answer, but I did find five helpful things on the road to balance.

1. Focus
There are so many news outlets and so many opinions that you will certainly be overwhelmed to the point of numb scrolling if you try to take it all in. Find one or two news sources you trust, and follow them. Know whose social media opinions you respect, and don’t think you have to click on every link or read every post. Pick a handful of issues to focus on, and don’t feel guilty that you can’t do something about everything.
Also, make sure it isn’t all gloom and doom. Funny videos are nice, but even better are stories of people, Christian or not, reflecting the image of God in their sacrificial love to others. Check out WORLD’s Hope Awards. The news that brought the most joy to my heart recently was that of Israel rescuing White Helmets.

2. Pray
REALLY pray. This ties in with focus. When the emotion of your Facebook feed changes with every swipe and every post carries information, all you have energy and time for is a quick prayer. But when you cut out noise and focus on what really matters to you, then you can devote time to pour your heart out to God about the troubles you – and He – care about.
If you feel He doesn’t hear or answer your prayers for current events, you may be encouraged by this sermon, unpacking Revelation 8:1-5.
“As we pray for any given thing, our prayers are stored up on the altar of God with the prayers of others for that thing until they reach God’s appointed proportion and then God pours them out in blessing in the best way for all concerned. So that no believing prayer is in vain. Ever.”

3. Help
This is the one that we think of as “doing something.” But all of these are doing something. And again, you can’t donate to every cause. You can’t volunteer at every event. You can’t even call your senator every time. Once more, focus is important. But so is any dollar or minute you give.

4. Educate
Spread awareness. Again, you can’t share everything you come across. But others may not know about something that happened. By sharing you can mobilize others to pray, or to help where you might not be able to.

5. Love
While we can do small things about global problems, we can do a lot about the problems of those around us. In a recent issue of WORLD there were articles on the correlation between broken relationships and mass shootings or suicide. I know it sounds cheesy, but change starts right where you are. By not shouting at your kids. By forgiving your husband. By showing up for your friends. By taking a meal to your neighbor. We want to solve the problems “over there” and cry out about the wrongs others are committing. And that is not wrong. But we are hypocrites if we are ignoring what we have more power over: the relationships we have with those closest to us. Hitting the key to donate is so much easier than dealing with tantrums. Laws, elections, and airstrikes may bring some change, but the only path to lasting change is if it reaches hearts.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other… just as the Lord forgave you… beyond these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:12-17.

“Normal”

Marriage. Moves. Birth. Babies. Time apart because of work. That sums up our last 4.5 years: 3 international moves in 3 years, 2 more local moves, two babies in 2 years, and countless days apart.
In our circles, all of these were seen as “normal.” This led to me ignoring a lot of negative feelings and a lack of grieving changes because they were seen as positive (or at least ordinary since everyone else’s spouse was gone, too).
But while marriage is a happy beginning, it also changes family relationships. It’s ok to be sad, too.
While moving is exciting, there’s sorrow over what’s left behind. Grieve that. It’s a lifechanging event that needs to be processed and drains emotional energy that needs to be replenished.
While birth is natural, it is a big, violent event, even in the most flawless birth. Don’t ignore the fear.
While babies are good, they’re also hard, and motherhood is formative. Mothers need to be mothered.
While for many couples time apart due to work is necessary, the difficulty of it can’t be ignored. Marriages and families apart need supporting, even if it happens across a whole community.

Normal does not mean ok. Normal does not mean difficulty will clear up on its own. Normal does not mean you can ignore negative feelings. Normal doesn’t mean you don’t get help.
Somehow I thought it did, which led to me shutting out a lot of emotions that should have been processed. It probably contributed to PPD, which in many ways was the floodgates of all the feelings I thought I was done with overwhelming me. But it forced us to deal with those things, and this time as we’ve moved it’s been my goal to not shut out what I feel, but to process it rightly. To cry when I need to… but not cry if I don’t need to. To offer my fears to God in prayer. To trust Him to provide and give me hinds’ feet to tread the mountain of making new friends for the fourth time in five years.
I don’t entirely know what “normal” means for us or in general. But I do know that whatever changes, there is always one “normal” that never does: the God who loves me, the God I love.

2018: July

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S’s “tea party” setup.

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We can’t get enough of these peapods!

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We only got a handful of cherries from both cherry trees.

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July means sending mail to Csehy! I made these for a few people and we sent notes and a few other things.

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Many trips to the beach while we still lived 5-15 minutes from it.

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Cabin trip! I’m so glad we made it this year in between other trips and packing.

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Preparing can be stressful but once we get there it’s so relaxing.
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Because a book, a hammock, and a river can’t be beat. And at my sister in law’s request, I brought henna, so we had fun with that too.

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The girls’ favorite thing was picking huckleberries. Ellie is quite the Little Sal from Blueberries for Sal… they all went straight to her mouth!

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Turning our 6 cups of huckleberry harvest into all sorts of things – the best was huckleberry syrup… and the huckleberry chocolate chip sourdough pancakes.

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Shelling fava beans

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Our last time hosting prayer meeting for church. After having a small apartment in Japan without much extra space, having room to host larger groups was high on our priority list when house-hunting here.

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So much garden lettuce! …and so many earwigs.

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Paper chain countdown to our move

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Ice cream bars from a local ice cream company. S really wanted to eat hers all at once but her tummy hurt, so she stopped and saved it for another day. I was really proud of her for using self control and not devouring it anyway!

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I love throwing a chicken in the crockpot with carrots and spices. Such an easy meal!
My mom, brother, and younger sister came up for a few days and we played and cleaned.

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I took S to the Farmers’ Market for a little date. We got blackberries, cucumbers, and a sunflower and listened to the harp and she thought it was great.

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I will not miss the trek home from the store with the stroller, but I have loved being able to go to the store when Ezra is at work.

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Blackberry picking followed by the beach… because Ezra is a super-packer and we were way ahead of schedule and didn’t have anything else to do.

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A stack of loved library books.

memorization// I’ll Never Forsake You (David L. Ward)

favorite recipes// sourdough soda bread // tahini cookie dough fudge // sour chickpea noodle curry // pineapple teriyaki chicken (did this on the stovetop, and boiled the sauce down instead of using cornstarch) // zesty queso soup //

best of online// seed cycling // crochet smock stitch // 11 toxic plants that look like food // sly fox hat // waistcoat crochet stitch (looks knit!) // 7 lies that keep you from breaking a habit // God doesn’t ask me to be a perfect mom // how Jesus transforms our relationships // every 40 years – immigration mistakes // summer travel: caution & pleasure // make God great again // Songs of Travel // nonstop arguing // tips for a small kitchen //

reading of late// True Feelings (Mahaney) // Water From a Deep Well (Sittser) // Mimosa (Carmichael) // The Last Girl (Murad) // Orthodoxy (Chesterton) // Love Has a Price Tag (Elliot) // Kissed on Arrival (Holmes) //

thinking about// sorting move feelings // cutting out noise // what can I do when overburdened by news? // goal of sanctification = look like Christ = love for God -> changed desires -> love others // Colossians: thankfulness. Knowledge of God leads to love of God leads to fruit bearing //

what brings joy// hammocks // huckleberries // open spaces // giggles

A Few Pregnancy-Related Book Reviews

I recently paged through a number of resources I had heard about related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and hormones that I had on my list of potential books for our library. Most were disappointing, but a few were wonderful!

Real Food for Pregnancy – Lily Nichols.
See this fuller review here.
This was great! I am not as conservative about carbs, but otherwise this was very clear and thorough on nutrition, exercise (including some on diastasis recti), and supplements during pregnancy, as well as outlining a good plan for the “4th Trimester” (postpartum) without descending into Eastern medicine and spirituality.
Which was the major pitfall of…

The Fourth Trimester – Kimberly Johnson
I still paged through this book in the hopes of finding some puzzle pieces for PPD and hormone balance, but it was so full of Eastern medicine and spirituality that I cannot recommend it to anyone, especially after then reading Lily Nichols’ book.

Cooking for Hormone Balance – Magdalena Wszelaki
Lots of information about hormones and balancing them with nutrition. I can’t attest yet to if it works or not, but we’ll see! There are a number of recipes, however most I would not be able to try since I do not do well with nuts and seeds – just like seed cycling sounds worth a try but I would have to do them as butters and even then may not be able to handle it.
She does recommend silicone and greenpans, which I am on the fence about, and the oil smoke points seem off – but I’ve heard differing things about avocado oil especially! Some of her recipes also call for things like candied ginger… but I’m wondering where she finds any that isn’t with a sugar she doesn’t recommend?

I’ve been looking for a pregnancy version of Holy Labor in the sense of a book that helps women work through the trials and fears of pregnancy. Redeeming Childbirth is close, but I don’t agree with all of the theology and it is so based on her experience and is mostly stories so was often hard for me to identify with. I would love something different for next time I’m pregnant (not right now ;)). So I found three pregnancy journals that I hoped would be the answer.
Waiting in Wonder – Catherine Larson – was the most solid of the three, theologically anyway. I love how she turned the focus on some of the things we obsess over while pregnant to what we really should be thinking about on a deeper level. But overall it was rather fluffy/emotional without really delving into struggles on a deeper level.
Praying Through Your Pregnancy – Jennifer Polimino – was full of her journal and stories, which I didn’t like. There was also a lot from the International House of Prayer which I disagree with on a number of levels, so I didn’t get very far in this one and can’t recommend it.
The Christian Mama’s Guide to Having a Baby – Erin MacPhearson – was certainly entertaining, but surface-level on both the physical and spiritual side of things.

Have you found any good books from a Christian perspective on pregnancy? Especially for encouragement and perspective with things like morning sickness, body image, fears, etc.

Moving to postpartum…
Living Beyond Postpartum Depression – Jerusha Clark.
I had high hopes for this book, but was disappointed. Overall, much of the information was good, but she takes a psychology + Bible view of healing that I generally disagree with (see here for more). Theologically it was not the most sound, and poking around her church’s website their explanation of the gospel is along the lines of sin preventing us from having an abundant life rather than breaking our relationship with God (which does prevent an abundant life, but that’s not the biggest problem).
Even without that, she mentions the necessity of spiritual help and nutrition and not just medication, but most of the book focuses on the medical helps. There is barely anything beyond a few lines about proper nutrition.
Still, it is not without strengths: her chapters for spouses, parents, and family members were very good. There is a lot of information on medication and making sure it is tailored to your needs.
I would recommend When Postpartum Packs a Punch (Cowan) paired with Spurgeon’s Sorrows (Eswine) to people instead.

Hope When it Hurts – Wetherell and Walton
This looks VERY good. It seems to be a theology of suffering written in a more devotional form than I have encountered before, with journaling and prayer prompts. I wish I had had it in the throes of PPD, and might add it to our library if I am ever there again, and recommend it to those in the midst of suffering who need encouragement, especially in the form of theological grounding, but don’t have the capacity at that time for a denser, heavier work (in which case I might recommend “The Cup and the Glory” by Greg Harris, or “Spiritual Depression” by Martin Lloyd-Jones).

A Heart Set Free – Christina Fox
I was expecting this to be more devotional and have more time unpacking individual Psalms. But it’s a very good lament primer, and also very good for a discussion of how to handle emotions. Part three is more of a study of specific Psalms.

2018: Garden

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garden bounty – just a small portion of our harvest! I forgot to keep a tally of how many salads we made, but it was a lot.

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Many thanks to whoever planted these peonies. The rest of the garden is almost entirely Ezra’s work, but these peonies were here when we moved in.

IMG_20180628_185421half of a peapod harvest. It was so hard not to just eat them all whenever we were outside.

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Drying peas for seed

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Fava bean harvest

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Garlic drying